It started with Cebu Pacific’s Php999 local destination airfare promo sometime end of July.
But where do I go? I am fond of going places I have not been to. From the history books back in my elementary days up to the current raves of its white sand beaches, the so called Philippines’ friendliest island was an easy choice.
Our group, led by the Travel Factor, is set to meet the night of Oct 10 for a 5-day northern Cebu island hopping trip, but I intentionally took a morning flight to go around the city proper on foot. Armed with internet research and the courage to travel lonesome to a new place, I stepped on Cebu soil by 11:15am.
I grabbed some free Cebu maps and mags from the airport and took a taxi to the hotel. After which I left my baggage and asked around for a good place to have lunch – my first meal in Cebu. I earlier saw SM Cebu, but I personally prefer tasting the local dishes of the place I visit than the usual fastfood joints or known dining places similar to what we have here in Manila.
After lunch and consulting my mini maps, I took a walking tour of the first street built in the Philippines – Colon street. It is now highly urbanized though, similar to that of walking in the hot busy streets of Manila. It also houses the city’s cluster of historical sites including the country’s first church, first port, and a famous city landmark.
Basilica Minore del Santo Niňo
On a hot Friday afternoon, the old basilica is full of church goers, old folks, and local merchants peddling candles for the prayerful, religious artifacts for the devotees, and colorful balloons for crying children.
There is also a number of curious tourists and foreigners obviously observing the surroundings and the people; taking photos.
A keener eye would observe the ancient stone blocks which constitute the old walls and solidly supports the church foundation.
With seven bronze bells that ring across town, the country’s first church will always remind the townsfolk of their histories past.
A stone’s throw away from the basilica is Cebu city’s famous landmark – the Magellan’s Cross. It serves as a reminder of the islanders’ conversion to Christianity in 1521 when the original cross was planted by a group of Spanish explorers led by Ferdinand Magellan.
I only saw the Magellan’s Cross previously in postcards and history books.
At first, I have to honestly say that I somehow expected something greater, more grandiose for a famous city symbol. But a deeper look at it’s historical essence and the people’s regard for their icon is more important than the monumental statute I am talking about.
Fort San Pedro
The last stop for the day was Fort San Pedro, the country’s first port erected in 1565. A good 500 meter walk from the cross, it has an entrance fee of Php21.00.
The fort consists of 3 high walls with 10 meter towers at the corners forming a triangular structure that later on became an arms store, a zoo, then a prison camp during the Japanese occupation and finally restored after the wars.
By this time, my feet are aching and the sun is almost setting. Now, the Manila boy in me is kicking and I wanted to see how different SM Cebu is from those in Manila.
And so I went.
I took a jeepney after asking around for directions, mostly in English since I heard that most Cebuanos understand English better than Tagalog. But I believe that was only when Tagalog was not yet established as the national language and taught in schools.
Watch Out for the next Seeing Cebu Series:
Part II – Reaching Bantayan Island – Nov 8
Part III – Cebu On A Plate – Nov 15
Part IV – Malaspascua, Cebu’s Boracay – Nov 22
Part V – ‘Adtonako’ Cebu – Nov 29
* Credits to Richard Techne for giving us permission to use his photos of “Inside the Basilica” (right photo) & the “Fort San Pedro Marker” photo. Use of the images without permission are prohibited and has full copyright of the owners.
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